Zach Duke Rumors

Orioles Rumors: V-Mart, Garland, Duke, Manny

We know that the Orioles have varying levels of interest in Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Jorge de la Rosa, as well as J.J. Hardy and Jason Bartlett, but here's the latest from Charm City…


Pirates Designate Duke, LaRoche, Young

The Pirates have designated Zach Duke, Andy LaRoche and Delwyn Young for assignment, according to a team press release.  The moves do not come as a surprise, as MLBTR pegged all three as non-tender candidates earlier this month.

Following a season where he posted a 5.72 ERA in 29 starts, Duke was seen as a non-tender candidate given that he could've earned a $5MM salary through arbitration this winter.  In six seasons in Pittsburgh, Duke delivered a 4.54 ERA in 160 games (all but one of them a start) with a 1.92 K/BB ratio and a 4.7 K/9 rate.  Duke was an All-Star in 2009, has a couple of solid seasons under his belt and is left-handed, so it's likely he'll find work at the back end of another team's rotation.  MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch reports that the Pirates tried to negotiate a new deal with Duke and also explored trade possibilities before finally designating the southpaw.

LaRoche joined the Pirates as part of the big Manny Ramirez/Jason Bay three-team deal in July 2008.  He was Pittsburgh's regular third baseman in 2009 but became expendable after the Bucs called up Pedro Alvarez to man the hot corner.  Once seen as a promising infielder in the Dodgers organization (he was ranked 19th among all major league prospects by Baseball America in both 2006 and 2007), LaRoche has a .224/.304/.338 line in 1228 career plate appearances with L.A. and Pittsburgh.

Young is another former Dodger prospect who joined the Bucs in April 2009.  Young has an impressive career OPS of .876 in eight minor league seasons, but has never been able to find regular playing time at the major league level.  His line in two seasons with the Pirates: .255/.312/.393 in 595 plate appearances, with time spent at second base, third base, and the outfield corners.


Non-Tender Candidate: Zach Duke

Last year, Zach Duke represented the Pirates at the All-Star Game, but after another poor outing, he has become a non-tender candidate. The 27-year-old leads the league in losses for the second consecutive season and while won-loss records don't mean much, Duke has also posted a career-high 5.78 ERA in 141.2 innings.

Duke makes $4.3MM this year, which means he won't be cheap if the Pirates offer arbitration. Even a modest raise would give the lefty a $5MM salary in 2011, which is roughly what Vicente Padilla, Brett Myers and Doug Davis signed for last winter. The Pirates will have to be prepared to pay Duke as well as established starters coming off better seasons if they offer arbitration.

But in spite of the ugly ERA and loss total, there's some hope for Duke. His 5.7 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 are respectable and he appears to be the victim of bad luck. No MLB pitcher who has as many innings as Duke has seen a higher percentage of batted balls fall in behind him for hits. Opponents have a .351 average on balls in play against Duke, which is well above his career mark. With better luck and potentially better defense, he could have a lower ERA.

It's also worth noting that only one MLB pitcher with as many innings as Duke has seen a higher percentage of fly balls leave the yard. Home runs haven't been a massive problem for Duke before, and if his homer levels return to normal, the rest of his numbers would look better, too. At this point, his stats don't look good, and we can't simply write this season off in the name of bad luck. Duke has not pitched well and his manager appears to be losing confidence in him.

The Brewers had interest in Duke last winter, according to FOX Sports. They're one of many teams likely to add starters this winter, so Duke would draw some interest if the Pirates non-tender him. Uncertainty surrounds Pittsburgh's 2011 rotation, partly because of Duke. The Pirates must decide whether to non-tender Duke and risk losing him to a rival team or offer him $5MM or so after a disappointing performance. I'm guessing the Pirates non-tender the left-hander and see if they can bring him back at a discount, but let's see what you think: Click here to take the survey and here to view the results.



Odds & Ends: Marlins, Duke, Red Sox, Lee

Links for Wednesday, four years after the Padres completed the trade that sent 2010 All-Star Evan Meek to Tampa Bay. A year later, the Pirates shrewdly plucked Meek from the Rays in the Rule 5 draft…


Odds & Ends: Dodgers, Dunn, Duke, Pujols

Ten years ago today, the Giants signed Francisco Liriano as an amateur free agent. In 2003, the Giants famously (and regrettably) traded Joe Nathan, Boof Bonser and Liriano to the Twins for A.J. Pierzynski. Now 27, Liriano is in the midst of a fine season atop the Twins' rotation. Here are today's links…

  • Brewers owner Mark Attanasio has interest in buying the Dodgers, according to Tom Krasovic of AOL FanHouse. However, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel hears that Attanasio does not have interest in the Dodgers (Twitter link).
  • Krasovic also reports that the Padres have talked to former D’Backs manager A.J. Hinch about hiring him as their director of pro scouting.
  • Adam Dunn is not likely to re-sign with the Nationals if you ask Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post. Boswell suggests the Nationals should sign Dunn, since power like his is hard to find.
  • Zach Duke was a non-tender candidate before his start yesterday and, as Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette explains, the lefty didn't do himself any favors by pitching just one-plus inning and allowing four runs. Kovacevic says "indications are powerful" that management will not tender Duke a contract offer through arbitration (though that wouldn't necessarily prevent a return to Pittsburgh).
  • Yahoo's Jeff Passan argues that Cardinals fans are more concerned about Albert Pujols than either Colby Rasmus or Tony La Russa.
  • D'Backs Interim manager Kirk Gibson has not had any discussions with ownership about managing after this year, but would like to return, according to Jim Gintonio of the Arizona Republic.

Zach Duke’s Future

Pirates lefty Zach Duke debuted with a splash in 2005, posting a 1.81 ERA over 14 starts and finishing fifth in the Rookie of the Year voting.  Since then Duke has posted more pedestrian numbers, strong enough to garner decent salaries in arbitration but not a multiyear deal.  Duke is arbitration-eligible one last time after the season.  Let's take a closer look at the Pirates' situation.

This year, the 27-year-old Duke has a 5.20 ERA, 5.5 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, and 1.4 HR/9 in 114.3 innings.  Stats like SIERA and xFIP suggest he's been better, deserving of an ERA more in the 4.30 range.  I'd call Duke a back-rotation innings-eater, but he missed significant time this year and in 2007 with elbow injuries.

Duke earns $4.3MM in 2010, and will be due some kind of raise if tendered a contract for 2010.  Given the Matt Capps situation last year, we can't rule out a non-tender for Dukes if the Pirates don't like his salary demands.  Still, a trade seems more likely.  Here's what GM Neal Huntington said to Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on July 30th:

"If the package is appropriate for one of our starting pitchers, we are willing to consider a move.  If the interest is in one of our starting pitchers who is one year away from free agency, that shifts the tolerance accordingly, as we would be able to reinvest their potential dollars into a major-league starting pitcher — via trade or free agency — and add valuable multiyear pieces to our major-league club and/or system. Again, we will need to feel good about the return to make a move."

Huntington was clearly referring to Paul Maholm and Duke.  I'm guessing he'd prefer to trade only one of the lefties.  They're similar pitchers in terms of performance.  Their contract situations and injury histories are the difference.  Maholm is signed for 2011 at $5.75MM and has a $750K buyout for '12 for a total commitment of $6.5MM.  A team tendering Duke a contract might save a million or more in comparison, but they won't have the '12 option and they will have to worry about his health.  As a result, it should take less to acquire Duke from the Pirates this winter.


Multiple Teams Discussing Paul Maholm

SATURDAY, 1:44am: In a deal for Maholm, the Pirates want a starting pitcher who is ready to contribute, two high-ranking team sources told Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

FRIDAY, 8:23pm: The Dodgers and Pirates aren't necessarily close to a Maholm deal, but the sides believe there's a genuine possibility that a trade happens, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link).

4:19pm: The Padres are not close to acquiring Maholm, according to Kovacevic (Twitter link).

3:46pm: The Dodgers and Padres are not the only clubs discussing deals with the Pirates, according to Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (on Twitter). The Mets appear to be involved in discussions for Maholm, according to Scott Miller of CBS Sports.

3:12pm: The two teams look close to a deal, according to Yahoo's Tim Brown (on Twitter).

3:10pm: The Padres are discussing Maholm with the Pirates, according to Scott Miller of CBS Sports (on Twitter).

2:59: The Pirates are "close" to trading Maholm, according to Jim Bowden of Sirius XM Radio (on Twitter). However, Tom Krasovic of AOL FanHouse hears that the Padres are not discussing a deal for Maholm (Twitter link). Meanwhile, ESPN.com's Buster Olney hears that the Padres are making progress on a Maholm deal (Twitter link).

2:36pm: The Padres are discussing Maholm with the Pirates, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.

1:29pm: The Pirates are willing to trade a starting pitcher for the right price, GM Neal Huntington told Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  Huntington referred to starters close to free agency, which implies Paul Maholm or Zach Duke.

Kovacevic figures Maholm to be more popular than Duke, since the latter spent time on the DL this year with an elbow strain.  Maholm is signed reasonably through next year with a club option for 2012, making him appealing to the Dodgers.  The Mets, Cardinals, Padres, Twins, and Tigers may also be in the hunt for a starter.


Odds & Ends: LaRoche, Lee, Nationals, Simpson

It was on this day in 1938 that Reds lefthander Johnny Vander Meer became a baseball immortal by throwing his second consecutive no-hitter.  What better way to commemorate the Vanderversary than with some news items? 


Odds & Ends: Lerew, Cuba, Coonelly, Hechavarria

Links for Wednesday…


Rosenthal’s Latest: D’Backs, Robertson, Pirates

Some notes from Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com

  • The Diamondbacks continue to pursue a number three or four starter in the wake of Brandon Webb's setback. A club official acknowledged that such a pickup was possible, but “I don’t think any team will be willing to give up that kind of pitcher at the start of the season.”
  • Rosenthal says the team has infield depth to use in a trade, and reiterated that they'd love to move Chris Snyder and the $11.25MM left on his contract. The Rangers and Red Sox are said to be looking for infielders, and the Mariners could join them following Jack Hannahan's injury.
  • The Tigers are shopping Nate Robertson, but Arizona doesn't consider him enough of an upgrade. Zach Duke and Paul Maholm are not available.
  • The best available starter may be Chad Gaudin, who was released by the Yankees on Thursday.  
  • The Brewers considered a Jeff Suppan for Snyder trade, but didn't want to take on Snyder's 2011 salary. Suppan will earn $12.5MM this season, the final one on his contract.
  • The Cubs do not expect to make a trade for a reliever before Opening Day, but they've scouted Jason Frasor and Scott Downs, plus Luke Gregerson of the Padres.
  • Nick Green has an out clause in his minor league contract, but the Dodgers may add him to the roster to serve as the backup shortstop.